When I was a child I was taught to persevere, there is no such thing as “can’t” but rather “I’ll try” and to never give up. I am thankful that I learned those lessons early….
When my daughter was a baby and I would drop her off at daycare, she screamed. They assured me she was fine, and when I picked her up she was happy. When my daughter was three or four, I got rid of her pacifier and she started to suck her finger. She continued to do that for many, many years. When my daughter was six and I would pick her up from school she would be the unhappiest child I knew. I talked with her teacher and she noted nothing out of the ordinary. She threatened to run away. I took her to a child psychologist. They noted nothing out of the ordinary. When my daughter was eight she threw a kicking and screaming tantrum in the floor of the store and I had to muster all of the strength I had to get her out of the store. When my daughter was 12, I had to beg, plead, scream, rationalize, anything to get this child to go to school. Her temper worsened, her behavior became more defiant, and I pleaded with the school for help. They recognized nothing out of the ordinary.
When she was 14, I noticed a change in her friends and an increased temper. She had darkened her beautiful blond hair, and pierced her own tongue. Some things you chalk up to being a teenager but I knew that something was different and unique about my daughter. She could be this wonderfully, smart sweet child, but at home she was the opposite; defiant, angry, threatening, violent outbursts towards her brother or me. No remorse, no regret, no fear. I began to be increasingly concerned for her safety, for my son’s safety. She began getting into more and more trouble at school. It was time for something to change. We went to the school counselor who recommended a psychiatrist. My daughter was in a session and found out that I had read her journal, where she expressed wanting to die. She went into a rage and started to yank handfuls of her hair out of her head. She seemed possessed and was hysterical. They held her overnight for psych evaluation. I held it together and then broke down once in my car.
This began many years of dealing with ups and downs, mood swings, finding answers, and finding solutions. She was diagnosed with Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD). I had repeatedly mentioned that she had a family history of Bipolar on her father’s side, but no one confirmed that this was her diagnosis. With the ODD diagnosis at least I had an answer but finding the solution was much more difficult.
My daughter did not do well alone. She did not do well when she felt she had to compete for my attention, which meant that she and her brother lived in separate residences for years, shuffled between our house and her dad’s. I finally found a therapy/school-based residence for her. The night before we were to travel there, she pierced her tongue. She was in so much pain inside that she had to get it out externally. She would do anything to shock or get my attention.
It was at her admission to the residential treatment center that both people on the admissions team challenged her on the drug use. After I got her settled and left, she became angry, called crying for me to get her, and begged to come home. However, I stood my ground, cried privately and stood by my plan to see her through this six-month program. When I returned home, I went and cleaned out her room. It was then I realized that she had been using marijuana and other drugs and the use was more often than not. I was angry with myself for not recognizing the signs sooner. After her first 30 days and my first opportunity to visit, I realized that I was seeing my daughter sober for the first time in a year. That realization shocked me and also changed how I would interact and relate with my daughter.
What we both uncovered through her years of coping with substance abuse and relapse was that her defiance and anger came from hurt, feeling betrayed and abandoned. She and I learned a new way to communicate. I stopped enabling, stopped permitting and really began to own my part in this relationship and what might have caused these emotions and feelings. It took many years for us to come to understand one another. She reminded me that she was not “me” and would never be me, and I accepted that my daughter was unique. Her personality was unique to her and I would begin to accept and love her for all her uniqueness. We started to be real with each other, and honest. It gradually began a change in her. It had completely changed me.
She still had a long road to go, and I still had to stand my ground, however she knew, and knows, that I will always love her unconditionally, support her emotionally and be there for her. She is healthy and alive today and will admit that those are years she would like to forget. Our relationship is stronger and when I see her now I see the person I knew she would be when she was born. We both realize how fortunate we are that she made it through, and lived. I am so thankful for the opportunity to see her thrive and grow up and become the woman she is. Surviving through those years taught us many life lessons. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Don’t allow other’s judgments of you to control you (they don’t know the circumstances) and have faith. Believe in her and believe in the power of change. Persevere.